It has been a long while since I have written anything. Yes I am still here but there is never enough time to gather my thoughts and write.
We recently had our 2nd USDA inspector come and we passed with flying colors and in addition had all 14 organic herbal soaps USDA certified organic. More products will be added to the list, but for now just baby steps at a time. Read more about the chemistry of soap making on our site and how all bars of soap can never exceed 85% certified organic content.
Another big achievement for us is that we finished our GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice), which streamlines a lot of paper work for our USDA inspector and for the FDA if necessary. It is not required in our industry to complete a GMP, but it is always a good thing to have in place. It is still evolving and it will always be useful for reasons of ingredients, label changes and new products and so on. It is similar to the USDA organic NOP (National Organic Program), but with another 5 levels to it. It is even more detailed than any USDA organic labeling.
GMP allows an inspector to verify every single ingredient and all equipment, labeling, bottles, cleanliness charts, batch making, you name it. If it enters the production area it is recorded and tripled recorded and guidelines are made for every particular item. It is basically a paper trail from nuts to bolts of what is in the production room. It even includes how to wash your hands and with what soap.
This is done in order to assure quality control, ingredient control, and every control imaginable. It is sooo time consuming and logistically a nightmare to keep all the paperwork, so we had to devise a more streamlined approach via the computer. Otherwise the purpose of having a smaller footprint would actually backfire if we used all that paper. But once everything is recorded and assigned numbers, and the building of specifications sheets to every single item, it doesn't change. It isn't just the recording of ingredients it's also building lots of binders of spec sheets, quality control sheets, intake of raw material, equipment, and when it needs to be upgraded the list goes on.
So each time a batch is made, there are dozens of steps to take even before making the product. From recording all the incoming material, to making just 1 product from the ingredients, the equipment used, the labels that go on the product, and do the labels match the batch ingredients, even down to making sure where the product is stored.
All this requires lots of time to set up initially. Again, this is all to assure that the quality of product is correct, the bottles are correct, how to handle the ingredients, is the environment hygienically cleaned, is the equipment used in working order, is the labeling of the products correct, quality control and more quality control and so on. Once the product is completed batch numbers are assigned and recorded and that particular batch number will give you a laundry list of every piece of evidence that went into making just 1 particular batch down to who actually made the product and how it was stored.
Most small companies do not go through the the process of Good Manufacturing Practice since for one thing it is not required. The FDA does not require personal care products to have a GMP in place, but they do recommend it. And after reading about a company closing its doors recently because what they were stating on their label and website was not what they were selling makes a lot of sense for all companies to have such a tedious procedure in place. If they only had a GMP in place the problem could not have existed or at least avoided and all verified.
Regardless, it is still time consuming and logistically a nightmare. So items take longer to be produced and longer to ship out, but all is cross referenced and ready to show our USDA inspector on a short notice.